Should you buy Chairman’s Preferred status now in anticipation of it becoming Executive Platinum status with American?

A few days ago I shared my thoughts about how I think a combined American and US Airways would look, and I’ve received several emails and comments from readers asking about whether it makes sense to buy up to Chairman’s Preferred status with US Airways in anticipation of this.

US Airways is the only airline out there I know that will sell you top tier status for a reasonable price. Here’s their chart for “buying up” to Preferred status:

So as you can see, you can outright purchase 100,000 PQMs for $3,999, or it’s a better deal if you have any qualifying activity to purchase up to 99,999 PQMs for $2,999.

With that in mind, does it make sense to buy Chairman’s Preferred status in hopes of this turning into Executive Platinum status with American, and getting eight of their systemwide upgrades?

I think the short answer is “probably not.”

The first thing to understand is how “buying up” to Preferred works. They’re not actually posting any PQMs to your account, but rather bumping up your status to what it would be with the number of PQMs you purchase. In other words, if you have 1,000 PQMs and spend the $2,999 for purchase the extra PQMs your status would be updated to Chairman’s Preferred, while your actual PQM balance wouldn’t change.

If you buy up between January and May it’s added to your PQM total from last year, while if you buy up between June and December it’s added to the current year’s balance. But the catch is that either way status is only valid for the remainder of the calendar year. So even if you bought up to Chairman’s Preferred in November, it would expire in February of the following year.

Therefore if you bought up to Chairman’s Preferred and a merger were to happen mid-year, chances are you wouldn’t get the eight systemwide upgrades, as they may very well only be issued to US Airways flyers the next calendar year. In that case it would make a lot more sense to buy up to Chairman’s Preferred early next year, if they’re still offering it then.

Anyway, it’s all just speculation on my part since I’m not sure when a merger will happen, or for that matter if it will happen at all. But at this point the upside seems limited, so it’s not something I’d personally jump on.

Comments

  1. What about doing a Silver Trial for $200, then flying 30K miles/40 segments for Chairman’s Preferred? You start with Silver, hit Gold at 15K, hit Platinum at 22.5K, then end at CP. At least you’ll earn RDMs, and at even 5cpm, 30K miles is only $1500.

  2. “So even if you bought up to Chairman’s Preferred in November, it would expire in February of the following year.”

    This is not entirely true. In previous years, around October the buy up switches to covering the full next year as well. So if you wait to buy up the day this switches over, you’d actually get the best value. You could buy in October or November of 2013 and be Chairman until Feb 2015. This is of course assuming, things haven’t started to change by then.

  3. @ Mark. + 1.

    I’ve also bought in November and confirm the buy up at that time is thru the next year. Thought it was in the footnotes of the buy up page but I don’t see it there today

  4. An interesting idea, but I think you’d be jumping the gun. Even if US & AA announce a merger tomorrow, it’ll be a long time before the frequent flyer programs are brought together. You need to get past stockholder approval, bankruptcy court approval, regulator approval. Then the airline needs to decide just how it wants to merge the programs, then there’s a big IT implementation to actually get it done. With United and Continental, it was almost 2 years from the merger announcement date until this was completed.

  5. @Lucky, perhaps another interesting follow-up: is Chairman’s Preferred on its own worth $2999 (assuming you have >1 PQM)? The international Envoy class upgrades seem maybe worth it? And I would assume at CP level you’re quite likely to be upgraded domestically?

  6. @ Nick — Yes, it definitely can be worth it. Domestic upgrades should almost always clear, and the fee waivers on award tickets are nice. That being said, the international upgrades are a bit of a pain, as there needs to be award space in order for the upgrade to confirm, and very rarely is there award space. In other words, expect to wait till the gate to clear your international upgrade.

    But if you have a lot of domestic travel on US Airways it’s not a bad way to jumpstart status.

  7. @Lucky — thanks. I hardly ever fly USAirways, mostly because I don’t really fly any routes they fly nonstop. But almost-guaranteed domestic upgrades could make connections in Phoenix or Charlotte relatively painless. I don’t fly often enough to attain status with any airline the old-fashioned way, though I have DL Gold through credit card spend and some domestic travel… and having Gold just makes me crave top level status where I can actually get upgraded other than on short-haul LAX-LAS and LAX-SFO flights 🙂

  8. @swag – indeed, even if the buy-up is worth it in itself, no way it would be of any benefit to buy it now. People are really getting ahead of themselves regarding a possible AA-US merger

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